Fisher cats are being spotted in New England. What are they?

  • The fisher cat, or fisher, is an elusive carnivorous mammal, which is not a cat and isn’t particularly fond of fish.
  • Populations thinned by trapping and deforestation have been bolstered in the US by species reintroduction and protection.
  • Shy, elusive and fast moving, the fisher is also brave. One will even take down a porcupine.

The arrival of spring has brought the sighting of a curious carnivore: the fisher cat.

A dark brown-furred mammal, the fisher cat has a name that is a misnomer. It doesn’t typically eat fish, unless it may come across a dead one lying next to a body of water.

Nor is it related to cats. The fisher cat is a member of the weasel family and is most closely related to a mink or a marten.

Shy, fast and elusive, the fisher cat is known to inhabit US forested areas of the Northeast and Northwest, and has recently begun showing its face in New England, especially in Vermont.

The animal is also known simply as the fisher, a name it got because it resembled the European polecat which was sometimes called the fichet or fitche, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

The Vermont Institute of Natural Science caught a fisher on camera on its Farrar Trail in the central part of the state on March 15. The creature seemed to be downing an easy meal.

Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts recently shared on Twitter what fresh fisher tracks look like.

Fisher may be seen during the day or night as their hunting times vary. Females tend to keep a territory of three to eight square miles and males six to 15 square miles, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. However, the males may travel 20 miles a day for food or during mating season.

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